A complete guide to Derren Brown shows in the West End
Delve into the mind of the world-leading mentalist and illusionist through his stage offerings. Derren Brown’s Unbelievable opens in London in 2023.
Think of a magician. Is it Derren Brown? It’s highly likely — especially if you’re reading this article.
Derren Brown wasn’t the first illusionist with grand plans to perform in the West End. In 1984, the Cambridge Theatre became known as “the magic castle of Seven Dials” in an effort to promote magic shows in London. However, after a few abracadabras, the castle pulled up its drawbridge a year later. The short-lived venture posed an interesting question — would a magic show ever entertain West End audiences?
Fast forward to 2003. Brown’s debut show showcased the limitless possibilities of magical storytelling. Rather than relegating variety acts to the sideline, Brown’s shows put illusions centre stage. With each show, he continues to push the boundaries of live theatre, proving that magic acts can hold West End audiences captive.
Although you can rewatch his television specials, there’s nothing like experiencing his shows in the flesh. Learn more about Derren Brown West End shows and discover how he’s become a world-renowned performer.
Book Derren Brown: Unbelievable tickets on London Theatre.
Derren Brown: Live (2003)
The illusionist started small with a short run of performances at the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol. The show quickly gained momentum, resulting in a nationwide tour. As part of the tour, Brown made his West End debut at the Palace Theatre. Nowadays, Brown records his stage shows for future broadcasts. However, his debut show was not preserved, so it remains a memory for audience members.
Something Wicked This Way Comes (2005)
Brown’s second stage show proved he wasn’t a one-hit-wonder. For Something Wicked This Way Comes, Brown and co-creator Andy Nyman took inspiration from Macbeth and the Ray Bradbury novel that shares the same name as the show.
As part of the UK tour of Something Wicked This Way Comes, he performed at the Cambridge Theatre and the Eventim Apollo. A year later, he reprised the show to be filmed at the Old Vic. Brown won his first Olivier Award for Best Entertainment for Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Derren Brown: Mind Reader — An Evening of Wonders (2008)
Two years later, Brown conjured himself to the West End with a mind-reading-focused show. Blink, and you’d miss it, though, as it only ran for 32 performances at the Garrick Theatre. In a London Theatre review, our critic said: “It would be easy to label him as a 'magician,' and he is. But he's also rather more than that because his stunts, illusions, or whatever you prefer to call them also employ psychology (or seem to), and that presents an intriguing and compelling dimension to his act."
Nyman and Brown worked together once more on Enigma. The spellbinding show ran for a month at the Adelphi Theatre. When Brown described the show, he referred to it as “new material that shocks, delights and defies explanation.” The aforementioned show included a section called the Spirit Cabinet, essentially turning audience members into zombie versions of themselves. Enigma earned Brown a second Olivier nomination.
"Svengali" describes a person who influences another for a sinister purpose. So it’s an apt title for a Derren Brown show complete with mind-bending illusions. As part of the year-long tour, Brown led two West End iterations; performances at the Shaftesbury Theatre and the Novello Theatre bookended the tour. Svengali won Brown his second Olivier for Best Entertainment Show.
Brown’s sixth stage show, Infamous, played at the Palace Theatre from 24 June to 17 Aug. 2013. During the finale, he incorporated his high school memories into visual and mental tricks that beggared belief. Also, Brown selected one audience member per show to be hypnotised and spend the interval asleep on stage.
It was a lucky seven for Brown with Miracle. His 2015 show explored how faith and miracles go hand in hand with the healing process. In a London Theatre review, our critic said: “There's no one quite like Brown in the world today for offering a literally spellbinding display of mentalism... Brown does more than just offer a thrilling display of mental agility and apparent mind-reading; his intricately constructed show probes deeper and richer territory to offer a [life lesson] — each of us has the power to change the way we think about things and find happiness.”
If Derren Brown fans ever wanted to learn more about the man behind the magic, Underground was the ideal show. Underground compiled the memorable sections from his previous seven shows into a “bumper” show with previously unseen routines. Performances took place at the Charing Cross Theatre for two months, followed by a West End engagement at the Playhouse Theatre.
After treading the Broadway boards with Secret, Brown returned to the West End with Showman. The Showman nationwide tour ended with a three-month run at the Apollo Theatre.
For the first time in his career, Brown presents a show that won’t star him. In Unbelievable, seven magicians will come together for an evening of bewildering trickery set to stir the mind. As well as traditional magic, the production will include a version of Will, The Witch and the Wolfman, marking the first time the play is performed in over a century. Unbelievable runs at the Criterion Theatre from September 2023 to April 2024.
Photo credit: Derren Brown (Infamous photo by Seamus Ryan, all other photos courtesy of productions)
Originally published on